Words You Don’t Need: A Writers Lesson

Guess what. You don’t have to say, “He clapped his hands together.” Do you know why? Because to make a clap, your hands come together, it’s implied. I can simply say, “He clapped his hands.”

This may seem so small to someone who isn’t a writer, but as a reader, you’ll appreciate stories moving at a good pace. Extra words add up quick. So quick! An example. I wrote a story that needed to be under 2,000 words. When I draft a story I just write it out and don’t look at the word count until I’m done. I was 732 words over what my limit could be. Submissions and contests always have a word range you have to work with.

By editing alone I removed some of the “sticky” words, like the evil word THAT. I went through again and shortened sentences and removed ones that didn’t propel the story as it should. Believe it or not, it was pretty easy to take the story down to my word goal.

Here are some writers insights that have stuck with me. Me, the unpublished, unpaid, writer, learning as I go! I know, I’m no authority here but a lot of this makes sense.

When you tell someone to sit, you don’t have to say sit down. We know their butt is going in that direction. When I say something like, “The room is packed with twenty people inside.” I really don’t need to say inside. Actually, right there is another example. I can toss the word “really” from this blog.

In fact, I try to use these words only in dialogue: really, look, think, feel. I’ve found people talk with a lot of these types of words. And if I remove them the character can sound robotic.

Then there is this showing versus telling thing that is HUGE in the writer’s world. You want to show readers that someone is happy, not tell them.

Example, “Carmen was happy!”

Better, “Carmen stands up on her tippy toes, claps her hands, and smiles wide.”

This world of writing is interesting. A single word can be analyzed over and over.


Photo from Burst, edited with Canva.


  1. This is REALLY good advice! In fact it was one of the things that I’ve described as being the top reason a book will land on my DNF list. (Did not finish).
    Long, overly descriptive runs of words, that niether lend to or propell the story forward, bog it down and making reading it a tedious chore.
    Mastering the “show, don’t tell” , creating vivid imagery with fewer words, is a true art. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha. Thanks! I’m editing my first novel now and it’s a blood bath murdering all these extra words and taking out sections that don’t move the story along. Feels good, like purging hiden junk in the basement.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s some pretty solid advice! I know right now there’s a trend in writing to basically ban all adverbs, but that’s something I don’t really agree with. Used in moderation, I don’t have problems with adverbs, and I think it’s more a writer’s fad that readers don’t even notice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We are both honing our craft as “unpublished, unpaid writer[s]”! Omitting needless words, according to Strunk and White (“The Elements of Style”), means that every word tell. “Vigorous writing is concise,” they say. Thanks for the great and timeless reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My, but I love unnecessary words. I love rich sounding, overblown sentences. I love playing with words and strangling the very life out of them. Mind you, I’ve spent a life writing comedy and spending sometimes days trying to decide whether ‘Hobnob’ sounds funnier than ‘Ginger Nut’, so I’m no guide to follow.

    The most annoying thing ever invented by Microsoft is the grammar check that insists on saying ‘Fragment – consider revising.’ If I’ve written short, it’s because I want it short. Sometimes a two or three word ‘sentence’ can knock your socks off.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say is ‘Lovely blog. Beautifully written and informative’. Job done.

    (See, I can do it :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I’m the queen of fragments. Let’s just say I like to see what grammar checks have to say, but if it changes my voice I ignore it. Same with beta readers. They are helpful and I pay them close attention, but I don’t do everything they say.

      Liked by 1 person

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